Prosecutors Suspiciously Drop Charges In Another Case Based On Informant Work

Prosecutors pursued tainted murder solicitation case against Govey (pictured)
For two years, prosecutors, police and sheriff's deputies stalled turning over potential exculpatory evidence to defense lawyers representing Joseph Govey--a 49-year-old Orange County man wanted dead by white supremacist gangsters and facing seven felony charges that, if convicted on all counts, could have meant spending the rest of his life in one of California's notorious prisons.

But Senior Deputy District Attorney Beth Costello walked into Judge Thomas M. Goethals' Santa Ana courtroom on Sept. 22 and startled Govey, a convicted felon, as well as his attorney, Renee Garcia.

Costello dismissed three of the most serious charges: solicitation of murder, attempted murder and street terrorism.

The veteran prosecutor's eyebrow-raising move wasn't motivated by the sudden onset of a bleeding heart sensibility. Most assuredly, the decision came reluctantly and with calculation. The Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) had, after all, consumed grand jury time to win a 2012 indictment against Govey.

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Police and Prosecutor-Cheating Kills Murder Case, Freeing Man Held In Jail For Years

Bob Aul
Orange County prosecutors claimed they were unclear about their ethical obligations
To prevent future public embarrassment about widespread corruption in it's jailhouse informant program, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) handed a sweetheart deal to an accused Santa Ana killer whose lawyers were on the verge of demanding a probe.

Isaac John Palacios walked out of the Orange County Jail a free man just before midnight on Sept. 23 after being in pre-trial custody since 2011 for the 2006 killing of Randy Adame near Mater Dei High School and a second, 2005 murder of Alberto Gutierrez, also in Santa Ana.

If OCDA officials--including prosecutor Erik Petersen--had had their way, Palacios might have been on his way to effectively serving a life sentence for the killings, but Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders discovered the case reeked of law enforcement corruption involving prosecutors, Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) cops as well as deputies inside the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD).

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Reda Hassan Safieddine Guilty of Shotgun Murder of 17-Year-Old Tagging Crew Rival

Courtesy of FVPD
Reda Hassan Safieddine in 2012
A jury today found a 20-year-old Fountain Valley man guilty of murdering an unarmed teen rival from a "tagging crew" with a shotgun blast to the neck in the parking lot of a convenience store.

Jurors in Santa Ana deliberated about four hours before convicting Reda Hassan Safieddine, who as a DJ went by "Big Reda," of second-degree murder and brandishing a firearm and found true a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a gun.

He faces up to 40 years to life in prison at his scheduled sentencing Nov. 7.

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Meet OC & LA Law Enforcement's Favorite Rats!

Illustration by Luke McGarry

Anthony Calabrese suffered no vision problems and wasn't a moron in September 2012, but the 23-year-old college student couldn't have known he had just seen a mirage inside the Orange County Jail (OCJ). Only a madman would think law enforcement officers had staged an elaborate, multi-hour, multi-pronged con game aimed at prompting him--one of 6,000 local detainees--to inadvertently forfeit his constitutional right to not self-incriminate. But Anaheim police detectives and sheriff's deputies anxious to solve a March 2007, drive-by murder indeed targeted Calabrese, whom they suspected of Barrio Small Town gang membership, for trickery.

The notorious Mexican Mafia ruthlessly reigns over all major Latino gangs in Southern California and, according to law enforcement officials, maintains a no-drive-by shootings policy; any affiliate who violates it without their permission suffers severe repercussions. Because deputies believed Calabrese might have violated the no-drive-by policy when he allegedly killed rival Citron Street gangster Armando Hernandez, and because a recovered "green light list"--a gang document detailing the identities of individuals to be attacked on sight--included Calabrese's name, they placed him in protective custody. Calabrese's housing location away from the general inmate population also--not accidentally--gave officers an easier forum to employ their secret weapon: a pair of ratas.

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Gustavo's Latest KCRW "Orange County Line": On the Gang Injunction Battle in Santa Ana's Townsend Street!

Thumbnail image for SAPD_Townsend.jpg
CopWatch Santa Ana
SanTana's finest

The summer has been especially hot in the Townsend Street neighborhood in SanTana, where the Orange County District Attorney's office is trying to fully implement a gang injunction. Nevermind that residents in the area don't want it. Nevermind that DA Tony Rackauckas usually overreaches on such efforts, leading to court decisions against him. There's cholos in dem dere apartments, so send in the cavalry!

The fight between activists and the DA/police is the subject of my KCRW-FM 89.9's "Orange County Line" this week.

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Weekender Updater: Gangs, Alleged Cruise Ship Killer, Discriminating Cops and TED Talkers

Illustration by Cameron K. Lewis/OC Weekly
Lonnie Kocontes failed to get a grand jury indictment against him for murder dismissed.

Read on, Garth, for links to previous Navel Gazing posts and updates to those stories.

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UPDATE: Sheriff's Department Discrepancy Emerges On Jailhouse-Informant Cheating

He (supposedly) knows nothing: Is Deputy Ben Garcia the Sergeant Schultz of the OC Jail?
In the aftermath of a superior court judge's Aug. 4 announcement that Orange County law-enforcement officials faked memory loss and lied under oath in hopes of covering up a corrupt jailhouse-informant system, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens faced an obvious question: What the hell is going on in her department?

Evidentiary hearings conducted since March bolstered claims by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders that deputies used informants to circumvent legal prohibitions against the government enticing incriminating statements from charged defendants who have counsel, and those same deputies helped hide exculpatory evidence about informants from defense lawyers.

Two days after Judge Thomas M. Goethals' ruling, Hutchens weighed in with a reaction to Paul Anderson, a veteran City News Service reporter, by effectively saying, "Keep on moving; nothing to see here, folks."

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Judge Finds Extensive Law Enforcement Lying But Declines To Issue Meaningful Punishment

Josue Rivas / OC Weekly
Message delivered to Public Defender Scott Sanders: Being right isn't enough in OC
After months of highly embarrassing revelations involving incompetence and corruption during special evidentiary hearings tied to an ongoing mass murder case, Orange County's law enforcement breathed a collective sigh of relief today.

Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals conceded police, deputies and prosecutors were "credibility challenged" after "undoubtedly" lying under oath in his court to fight allegations filed in an historic, 505-page, January 31 motion by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders.

Let me repeat: law enforcement officials were caught lying under oath, news that surely would bring painful rebuke to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system, right?

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Titty Titty Gang Bang, An Orange County Jail Porn Film, Aired Today In Court

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The non-XXX version that wasn't directed by killer Stephenson Choi Kim
Homemade porn doesn't often get aired in Orange County courthouses, but today jurors in the trial against a jail deputy accused of allowing a killer inmate to enjoy sex dates, drugs, steaks, candy and a cell phone in exchange for bribes saw three, graphic iPhone video clips.

The no-audio footage, shot by Stephenson Choi Kim, shows him kissing Ha Duc Nguyen, repeatedly fondling her exposed breasts, mugging for the camera, squeezing his crotch through his orange jail jumpsuit and then exposing his erect penis.

In at least a half dozen segments, Kim--who walked into a crowded Cypress restaurant in 2004 and murdered a woman he didn't know while seriously wounding six other diners to impress his gang--enthusiastically worked his hard-on while taking shots of Nguyen, who seems to be moaning as if stimulated by an active vaginal vibrator.

At one point, Kim stopped pinching and pulling on Nguyen's nipples and filmed himself sliding a finger in and out of her mouth.

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OC DA Files Gang Injunction Against Townsend Street Gang in Santa Ana

CopWatch Santa Ana
Santa Ana Gang Unit officers on Townsend Street
Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas and Commander Tammy Franks offered inanities when asked by community members last November if the po-po was looking to place a gang injunction that would affect the Townsend Street barrio in central SanTana. "We are constantly looking at data related to all our hot spot areas," Rojas said at the time, in response to councilman Roman Reyna. "If there are gang injunctions to be done here in the city, I will be at that community meeting." Commander Franks tried to assure skeptical audience members that a SAPD Gang Unit presentation at the KidWorks center that tipped off residents merely spoke of gang injunctions in the hypothetical.

But earlier this month, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) literally filed for a preliminary gang injunction on Townsend, and Santa Ana police served notices to those named in it just last week. So much for that community meeting, eh Chief Rojas?

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